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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Making A Rag Rug

This is the first rag rug that I made, back in 2006.

After a quick sketch on paper, I transferred the design to some hessian with a large felt pen.

I bought four woollen blankets from charity shops and dyed them with various acid all in one dyes from Omega Dyes.

I dyed them in a large saucepan (used only for that purpose) and didn't agitate the fabric too much, so that I ended up with a blotchy effect on the fabric, with some darker and some lighter areas.

The hessian was fixed into a frame, and I used a shuttle hook from Debbie Siniska to do the hooking. I later learnt that you should pull out one thread from each edge of the hessian to check that you have a perfectly straight edge to work from. My rug started becoming quite twisted because I hadn't done this and I had to go back and pull bits out of one edge and re-hook the other edge straight.

I rested the frame on a couple of trestles to do the work, although I see that most people work standing up, with the frame propped against the wall, when using this tool. The hooking is carried out from the reverse, so there is a lot of turning the frame to trim fabric ends and check that the design is going as planned. I tried to do no more than an hour at a time to make sure that I didn't strain my back or hands.

The strips of blanket were too thick for the shuttle hook to begin with: the thicker blanket needed to be just over 1/4", the thinner blanket strips nearer to 1/2" for them to run smoothly, otherwise the strip rucks up and gets caught under the point of the tool, and it is hard going on your hands and wrists. One tip is to try a few strips with your tool before you cut hundreds the wrong width... I used a rotary cutter and A1 sized cutting board, but would dearly love to get my hands on one of the fabric cutters sold in the US!

As I neared the end, I could see that I was going to run out of the background fabric so I cut the design short by about a foot in length. Note to self - make sure you have plenty of fabric dyed ready beforehand - any extra could be used in another project or for repairs.

When I was finished, I cut out the rug with a two inch border of hessian. I folded over a one inch hem then folded the whole to the back and stitched in place by hand using a curved needle and strong button thread. I had checked with two professional rug makers about whether to add a backing or not, and whether to use latex to back the rug. Their advice was 'no' to both: apparently latex may damage the fabrics over the long term and a backing fabric can trap grit which then acts like sandpaper rubbing away at the fabric strips and causing damage over time.

After a few days of use and watching the dog surfing about on the rug over the wooden floor boards, I decided to add some rug grip tape from Lakeland. I tried hoovering the rug with the upright vacuum cleaner, but this pulled up a few stray ends, so I've decided to stick to the hand tool in future, and I've got my eye on a proper carpet beater listed on Ebay.

The rug is still in front of our fireplace six years later, although it looks a bit faded now and there are a few loose ends that need trimming or re-prodding, it has stood up to plenty of wear.


Posted by Julia of Fire Horse Textiles and Love Buttons HQ.


  1. Wow what a talented lady you are i just love your rug :) I note from a previous blog that you also make rag rugs but your wool rug is just fabulous.

  2. That is so impressive! It's really beautiful :)